Can your mindful mind intentionally forget thoughts?

Can your mindful mind intentionally forget thoughts?

Imagine you could control and manipulate your own thoughts: what would be the memories and thoughts you would try to forget? Which ones would you like to remember forever and think about more? Being able to control the flow of your thoughts can greatly improve your emotional well-being (Anderson & Levy, 2009). This is called intentional memory control, an active memory-based emotion regulation strategy to retrieve memories or intentionally forget them (Fawcett & Taylor, 2012). 

That sounds great. But we all know how hard it is to intentionally suppress certain thoughts and memorize others. We were interested in identifying factors that could influence our ability to intentionally do so. Mindfulness, for example, has been shown to improve emotion regulation and enhance memory retrieval (Alberts & Thewissen, 2011). Thus mindfulness might be a potential factor to enhance intentional forgetting. We used a Think/ No-Think paradigm, created by Anderson and Green (2001) and half of the participants received a mindfulness intervention. We expect participants who are more mindful to have better intentional forgetting abilities and improved emotional well-being, when compared to people who score lower on mindfulness. 

The results could help researchers develop strategies to strengthen our intentional memory control. Strategies that could for example be used in the treatment of PTSD, where intentional control of intrusive thoughts and memories is a dominant problem. But it could also help improve the quality of daily life.

Research Group 10


Alberts, H., & Thewissen, R. (2011). The effect of a brief mindfulness 

intervention on memory for positively and negatively valenced stimuli. Mindfulness, 2 (2), 73-77. In.

Anderson, M. C., & Green, C. (2001). Suppressing unwanted memories by executive control. Nature, 410(6826), 366-369. 

Anderson, M. C., & Levy, B. J. (2009). Suppressing unwanted memories. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(4), 189-194. 

Fawcett, J. M., & Taylor, T. L. (2012). The control of working memory resources in intentional forgetting: Evidence from incidental probe word recognition. Acta Psychologica, 139(1), 84-90. 

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